Wanderings from DC to Missouri

Welcome back everyone. When I last left you, It was Monday afternoon, Mrs. Shuttletrain and I were in the great state of Maryland, headed to Washington District Of Columbia. We found the Parkway semi crowded as we approached the DC area at 5:00 in the afternoon. We found the Holiday Inn Express, checked in, unpacked. As I looked out the window for the view, to my amazement, our room overlooks the Northeast Corridor rail line. AMTRAK Northeast Commuter, Acela, and MARC lines ran by the window every five minutes. We walked around the four different sections. The grand hall, the midway (Mall), food court, and the  Amtrak/MARC/VRE gates. We found the National and Alamo Co-Shared counter. No renters, just the agent filing paperwork. We moved on the Metro station, down the stairs, the escalators were all headed up. We walked around the White House and the Executive House. The streets have been blocked off or fenced off more than back in 2002 , when I last visited the nation’s capital, during the national law enforcement ceremony. We saw the protesters camped out in Lafayette Square.  We walked over to the Museum of American History. We had lined up a tour of the railroad collection of the Smithsonian. After the tour, we wandered through the rest of the collection. We then went to the National Aquarium. Folks, we were not impressed. For being located in the basement of the Commerce Department, we were embarrassed that our visitors see this as our National Aquarium. Next up, was the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which my father was a charter member, who was later shot in the line of duty but survived, only to die later of the pancreatic cancer.   Walking around the memorial, we headed to the National Building Museum. Walked around inside, but, did not go to the exhibits. To keep on the National Park theme, we visited Ford’s Theatre Museum, since the actual theatre was closed to an actual rehearsal. We then went across the street and went through the house where Lincoln died. We had never walked so much. We made our way back to Union Station, caught the hotel shuttle back for dinner and to pick up our car to head to the Jefferson, Lincoln, WWII, Vietnam, Korea memorials. I had been taken there at dusk on my trip before, so I thought it was the best time to introduce Mrs. Shuttletrain to them. She commented later, that indeed was the most memorable time to see them. After taking in the moments, we headed back to the hotel for a night’s rest.

Wednesday, the second full day in WDC. After breakfast, we caught the hotel shuttle back down to WUS. This time, we boarded the Metro, to the Smithsonian stop. We visited the Castle, then the Air & Space Museum, which is only part of the museum. The other is at Dulles airport. After the A&S, walked around the Washington Monument, then walked to the capitol, and up the hill. Then found the nearest metro station, to find Dupont Circle, to meet long time friend and former boss. After dinner, headed back to to WUS and out shuttle.I watched the trains pass by my hotel window for about an hour. Then off to bed.

Thursday, I wish I could do over again. Breakfast was good, packed the car and left the hotel, which was in the northeast part of DC, at 9:00 am. Our first destination, Arlington Cemetery, which by the way is the Robert E. Lee plantation. It only took us three hours to find the right road. In the process of being lost, we did find the US Air Force Memorial. Really nicely done. Once we used our eyes, instead of following the GPS directions. We parked our car, and began the walk, no cars allowed unless you’re in a funeral procession.  We visited the Kennedy graves, then walked up the hill to the Lee House. The house is undergoing repairs, due to the earthquake. but the house was almost ready to bring the furniture back into the house. We toured the museum and the gift shop, then continued the walk to the Tomb Of The Unknown, saw the Changing of Guard. We visited the space shuttle memorials. It was getting late in the day, so we found our car and headed towards Manassas, VA which would be our stop for Thursday evening. We arrived and had enough daylight to visit the Manassas National Battlefield. Then checked into the Manassas Holiday Inn, yes, It was the only full service HI we would stay at during our trip. Just as we returned from dinner, the skies opened up with the biggest thunderstorm of the trip.

Friday morning, brought sunshine and cooler temps. We headed northwest towards Harpers Ferry, WV. we made a quick via in Leesburg, VA. The Chamber of Commerce is located in a old mill complex and train depot. Harpers Ferry is a town within a national park. The town is located between two rivers that come together. Railroads and the canals both fought each other in this town. As you probably guessed, the railroads won. The town has several remnants of old bridge supports. The town has two rail lines that converge into one over the river before it heads into the Harper’s Ferry Tunnel. Harper’s Ferry is a stop for AMTRAK’s Capitol Limited. The National Park Service does the history proud. After spending about four hours visiting the town, we started our journey over the West Virginia Mountains. Unlike three years ago, I drove the twists and turns. since Mrs. Shuttletrain almost turned to stone, after driving them.  Reaching Ohio after dark, we made our way to Chillicothe for the night at the Holiday Inn Express.

The sun rose upon the horizon, that was our signal to begin the sightseeing in Chillicothe.  First stop, for Saturday was the National Park Service’s Hopewell Historic Site. The Indian Mounds pre-dated, the Cahokia Mounds near St. Louis. Moving on into Downtown Chillicothe to the Chillicothe Railroad Museum. The museum was started by a man and his wife that thought the railroad history of Chillicothe. The museum is housed in two Baltimore and Ohio cabooses. While small, added to the fact that the city wants to close the museum, this museum has a very good collection of memories. After taking to the volunteer that was manning the store this Saturday, I learned that the museum was indeed a labor of love. We left and continued westward along US 50 to Cincinnati. Hit another National Park Site, this time, the home of President Taft. Taft’s house has been preserved in it’s glory by the NPS.  We made a quick pitstop at the Museum Center in Cinny, then had dinner at a nearby Big Boy. Our bed down stop for the evening, was Vincennes, Indiana at what else a Holiday Inn Express.

The final day of vacation wandering, started off like every morning on this wandering, breakfast then at eight, leave for the first stop. The George Rogers Clark National Monument was our first stop on the banks of the Wabash River. While the visitors center is small, the monument is one large cylinder made of Granite on the outside and Marble on the inside, The interior has several murals, which the Park Service has a wireless audio program that describes the murals. Very informative, and moving. With Indiana behind us, we crossed over into Illinois , and moved on down 5o, we paused in the town of Carlyle. The former B & O railroad station , still stands and is used by the CSX Louisville Division as a crew base, The station looks pretty good. After trying to dream about what it would have been like to see a steam engine just come over the rise and head into St. Louis. After coming back to to the current place of time, we piled back in the 2005 Jeep and wound our way to the Mississippi River and over the bridge we went back into our home state of Missouri. An hour later, we arrived back in the town of Washington. After thirteen days of wandering, it did feel different being back at home base.  But I know the wanderings will continue soon.

Till next time…Please remember,,anytime is train time, and take those earbuds and cellphones off when your’re around railroads. If not for your sake, the other people affected by your bad decision.

Woo Woo

Wandering the Ohio, and Pennsylvania countryside

The month of September means an extended vacation. This year, Mrs. Shuttletrain and I decided to head east.  We left Washington, Missouri and headed east, first on Interstate 44 then onto Interstate 55. We then joined Interstate 70 which we travelled across Illinois. We stopped at Vandalia, the home of the first state Capitol. We ate dinner at our usual Long John Silvers. Then found our way through Indianapolis. The city has expanded the airport with new roads and interstates. The first night was spent at the Holiday Inn Express in Greenfield, IN. The hotel was a rather new. I love staying at Holiday Inn Expresses because they offer free internet but they have a free hot breakfast.

Wednesday morning, we continued east through eastern Indiana and Western Ohio. The first sightseeing stop was the Frank Lloyd Wright house, Wescott House. Mrs. Shuttletrain and I have gotten the opportunity to visit several of the FLW houses. This one is a little smaller but the but yard made up for the small size of the house. For more information visit, http://www.westcotthouse.org. We then headed back to Interstate 70 and found our way to Trinway, Ohio. I heard that there was a gentlemen’s yard that had a big collection of railroad memorabilia. We got several pictures of it. I was impressed. The gentlemen’s had a museum, but, the State of Ohio shut him down, because he did not have a public restroom. Dinner was at the Bob Evan’s in Zanesville. OH. We then headed across the Ohio River and into the Wheeling tunnel. Last time we headed this way the tunnel was closed. This time they only had one lane open so it was bumper to bumper. We then followed the winding Interstate 70 up the hill into Pennsylvania. to the town of Belle Vernon where another Holiday Inn Express waited.

The next morning, Thursday was going to be a big travel day. The desk clerk told us that our first stop was only an hour away. We left the hotel at 8:00 am, We hopped back on Interstate 70, which joins the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Turnpike brought us to the Somerset exit, which is where we exited and found the Flight 93 National Memorial. This memorial commemorates the brave efforts of the passengers about the hijacked Flight 93 on September 11, 2011. While the National Park Service only has phase one of four phases done. It really moved my heart. The  next site we found was the Incline Plane of Johnstown, PA. This Incline Railroad is still operated by the local transit district. They still use it to get vehicles (cars, motorcycles) and pedestrians from the town level up to the top of the mountain, where a restaurant , museum and gift shop are on top of the mountain. We then hurried down the mountain and found the Johnstown Memorial, we drove through the area quickly. We had several other place to go this day, so we had to have forward progress. Cassandra, Pennsylvania was an overlook the had 20 people watching trains. Cresson, PA was not very interesting. The feature was the of this town was the Station Inn. We visited with a few people that were staying there. The Station Inn is for the hard core fan. The rooms are nice, but, they have a two night stay requirement. We move on to the town of Gallitzin, which has the two tunnels. The town has made a very nice railroad park and cutouts on the bridge to make pictures very easy. The museum across the street was supposed to be open until 5pm was closed and not sure why. The next feature was driving under the world famous Horseshoe Curve. We were too late to see the Curve, so we headed to the third Holiday Inn Express of the trip in Altoona. The hotel was hosting the local Chamber of Commerce party, there was no place to park, so we went to dinner, finally after an hour of eating, we found a parking space and headed into the hotel to rest our head. This hotel is one of the oldest we stayed in during our wandering. I had to stop and ask a fellow Enterprise Rent A Car agent where it was.  The long day of sightseeing was over, and that;s how we ended the third day.

The fourth morning brought us partly cloudy skies that soon turned into mostly cloudy. The first stop of the morning was the Pennsylvania Railroaders Museum on the northside of Altoona. This museum is housed in the old Altoona shops. We entered the visitors center and met up with Cyndi Hershey, who just happens to be the Director Of Administration for the museum. She gave us some background on the museum, and then let us explore the exhibits ourselves. The entrance/lobby transports the visitor into the world of the railroader. The exhibits in the museum tell the story of the railroader. A railroader describes both the crew of the railroads and the people that serviced and maintain the railroad. The museum also highlights the inventions that the Altoona Shops created. One of the most interactive features in a Irish bar, in which, with the help of two rear projection screens, has engineers and maintainers relive stories as bar patrons.  The rolling stock visible from the outside yard is not overwhelming . The yard  was being transformed into a concert venue for a big community event the next day. I would say that the Pennsylvania Railroaders Museum is definitely a stop worth coming back to. They focus on the human side of railroading. After leaving the museum. we headed back west to the second part of the Museum, the World Famous Horseshoe Curve. They have a incline that will take you to the top or you can take the stairs like will did. Warning: pace yourself. The top or the ridge as the locals call it, is awe inspiring. The curve literally, puts you in the middle of the bend. The Norfolk and Southern trains come from behind you on either side and then parade right before your eyes. The remains of the old station still stands as does an old diesel engine. Plenty of benches and there is a loudspeaker that broadcast the dispatcher frequency. Downside is there is no ATSC display. Going down, we took the funtacular(Incline) back down and headed to the curve museum. Very nice and simple. We then people watched a few minutes to get reactions of people has they first saw the curve or just heard a train a different way. We then left Altoona behind and headed to the next area on our itinerary, Bellefonte, PA. The town has  their chamber office inside a restored train station. The chamber greeter, was not helpful at all when it came to questions about the depot and the railroad. She kept referring us to the Railroad Historical operation that shares the building but was not open, even though they were supposed to be. We had to be satisfied with just taking pictures of the building and some passenger cars outside. The daylight was heading over the hills. so we continued our wanderings across Interstate 80 and turned northwards on Interstate 81 with Dickson City as our hosts for the evening. We checked into the Holiday Inn Express and had dinner at Red Robin. The town is nestled overlooking Scranton. Very pretty and scenic. The moonlit night was a great thing to behold.

The first Saturday of our wandering was going to be another packed day, but only two places to visit. This day found us at the Steamtown National Historic Site.Steamtown was where I was hosting the Let’s Talk Trains Show from, feature Steamtown and four other National Parks that had a Railroad Focus. We walked the site with the host, NPS historian and archivist, Patrick McKnight. Mr. McKnight really knows his history about the Site and more importantly, the area’s place in railroad history. The site is built around the roundhouse, and yard of the former Delaware and Lackawanna . The National Park Service has done it’s remarkable job keeping the history of America. I was very impressed, about the collection of displays in the roundhouse. The original Steamtown USA was a private collection, that were handed over first to a foundation then the NPS. I found out that the main reason that Steamtown is a National site is that the National Park Service under President Reagan was the head of the California Railroad Museum. Some of the other parks on the show were: Golden Spike National Historic Site, Grand Canyon National Park,  Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Allegheny Portage Railway National Historic Site . It was a great show, the guests were excellent, beyond belief. After the show ended,  we said our goodbyes to our host and the facilities staff, not before posting for pictures with the Mr. McKnight, Mrs. Shuttletrain, and our LTT sign next to the Steamtown sign. With that the show done, headed south along the Northeast Extension to King of Prussia and the KOP Holiday Inn. Checked in and got a treat, My cousin, lives in nearby, Warrington, so he and his friend joined us for dinner, boy the old saying is right, time flys when you are having great time.

Sunday morning started off in Valley Forge National Historical Park, with the early morning joggers The history flows like the rolling hills. The most unexpected feature of the park was that prior to just a few years ago, visitors arrived at the park by the railroad.  The old station still stands as if it was just yesterday, although, the inside has been turned into the starting point for the Washington House tour. The park visit lasted just over three hours and we still wanted to see more, but, the sweet smell of Hershey was calling.  Chocolate World is world’s largest chocolate smell vision. They have theme parked the factory tour right out of the factory into a theme ride that feels like it should be next door at the theme park. Our Holiday Inn Express for the evening just happen to be next to the main NS tracks that lead to Philadelphia. Fast and Furious they came and went. So much for Sunday.

Monday morning starting before the sun. We thought we would catch the sunrise at Gettysburg  National Military Park and start the battlefield tour in the early morning mist.The Gettysburg Foundation created the Palace aka Visitor Center. They rebuilt the cyclorama and added a three screen video retelling of the battle. The cost is a little over the top. They should just stayed with the Cyclorama. The morning came to an end so we headed, east of US Route 30 f0r Strasburg and the oldest railroad in the US. The Strasburg had just finished it’s week visit with Thomas. We backed down the main to an area short of junction work then steamed back to the yard. Afterwards,  headed across the street to the Pennsylvania State Railroad Museum. Once again, we found another piece of railroad heaven. Boy, did they have a lot of rolling stock under one very large. The museum has a great collection of different pieces. The time in the Pennsylvania was coming to an end, We darted off on a diagonal path from Strasburg, through Delaware into Maryland and over the Francis Scott Key, you know why he is famous, bridge into our Nation’s Capital.